At their F8 conference last month, Facebook outlined a range of coming visual tools and features, which were mostly focused on the platform’s advancing AR capacity.
But there was one other note included in their ‘coming soon’ list which didn’t get a heap of attention at the time:
- 3D Posts in Camera: Take a 3D post from News Feed and experience it in your world with Facebook Camera on your mobile device
Of course, 3D posts didn’t get a lot of coverage because Facebook didn’t have a lot to share about them right then. But this week, TechCrunch has provided an overview of not only what the coming 3D posts in News Feed will look like, but how they’ll be generated by Facebook’s systems.
As you can see, the new 3D posts will provide a level of depth to posted images, and will respond when you scroll past or angle your phone. And they look impressive, adding another element to your images – but it’s how Facebook will build these new images that’s most interesting.
Through a complex process of image layering and data-mapping (you can read all about it here), Facebook’s process uses the dual camera set-up of most modern smartphones to create these 3D images, without any extra effort on the part of the creator.
As explained by TechCrunch:
“The phone’s two cameras take a pair of images, and immediately the device does its own work to calculate a “depth map” from them, an image encoding the calculated distance of everything in the frame.”
That’s the simplified explanation – you can see more of the process in action here:
The end result is a simple way to create good-looking, eye-catching visual effects, without having to be a tech expert.
And that, really, is key. Again, from TechCrunch’s post:
“Interestingly, the origin of 3D photos wasn’t an idea for how to enhance snapshots, but rather how to democratize the creation of VR content.”
Facebook is investing big in virtual reality, and in VR being the future of social communication. But it’s a long way off yet - and to get people to that next stage, to transition them from their regular social feeds to full VR environments, Facebook needs stepping stones, tech pathways which hint at what the next evolution offers, and why users might want to use them.
This is partly why Facebook’s so keen to push the use of Facebook Stories – through the expanded use of the Facebook Camera, they can showcase new AR tools and effects, shepherding users into their expanded digital offerings, which will eventually lead to full VR interaction. 3D photos are another step on this path – while it may seem small, the new image offering will draw people in, making them more interested in how they enhance their own images in the same way.
As such, you can expect to see a lot more of these smaller visual tools and advancements moving forward, little developments that showcase a new way of looking at - and engaging with - Facebook content. And as users do, they’ll ideally become more interested in similar options, and broadening their Facebook content experiences.
VR is still a way off, it’s going to be a long time before we’re engaging in fully immersive environments, catching up with friends from the comfort of our own headsets.
But these are the breadcrumbs that will lead us down that path. Worth noting as we see such systems evolve.